Tag Archives: internet

Hacking your kids’ online accounts

A friend of mine wrote recently about an incident in her childhood that left a bad taste in her mouth. Her father had set her up on a private computer, telling her she could write about anything she wanted to without worry of anyone seeing anything. What he didn’t tell her was that he’d mirrored her computer on his own, allowing him to see EVERYTHING she was writing. She only discovered this when writing about personal feelings, and her father came to talk with her about it.

What this dad did, in my opinion, was commit a gross violation of his daughter’s trust. He led his daughter to believe she could be her most candid. And then he took advantage of that. His actions had the danger of affecting his daughter’s feelings about trust for life. (You can read her post HERE.)

But even after saying all that, I do believe a parent has the right to check their children’s online activity. In fact, I think it’s mandatory!

My kids are now 15 and 12. Several years ago when I first allowed them to go online, I let them know that I was to have access to all their passwords and would be checking on them from time to time. This included email and Facebook. I let them know right up front that their activity online was not private from me. This did two things – it forced them to make sure their online activity was at a standard their mom could live with, and it gave me the guiltless permission to check their online business.

This proved vital last year when my daughter got into a relationship with a guy who just wasn’t trustworthy. She became ultra sneaky, and I really questioned what was going on. My daughter had since changed all her passwords, but had a habit of leaving herself logged into my computer (perhaps on purpose…). The messages I saw between the two of them proved to be far beyond what a healthy conversation should be. And I confronted her.

The result? She was furious, of course. She felt betrayed, of course. But soon we were able to talk it out and come to some understandings.

Since then, we have a much more open relationship. I have made it safe for her to share with me what she needs. She has stopped being so secretive. I have no need to hack into anything of hers – though I’m sure she knows I will if I feel it’s necessary.

I feel like things would have been much different had I not been able to peek into what she thought was private.

So yes, I think parents should monitor their kids’ online activity. But they should also respect their child while doing so. It should be divulged upfront that the parent can and will access personal online data if the need arises. And things like private writings in a personal document must always be respected as PRIVATE (unless their are questions about the child’s safety).

What’s your opinion? Should parents “hack” into their kids’ accounts online?

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Cyber bullying

He could be the one being cyber bullied. Or he could be the one doing the cyber bullying.

My son came to me a while back about a kid at his school. He was distressed about the fact that this kid was posting stuff on his Facebook wall. The majority of it was through an app on Facebook that asks certain questions about different Facebook friends, and the person answering has the option of answering “yes” or “no”. On his wall, it says “Little Johnny has answered a question about you. Click here to unlock”. So there is no way for many people to see what the question or the answer is. But from what the Taz told me, the questions were along the lines of “Do you think the Taz is ugly?” or “Is the Taz smart” or “Do you think the Taz picks his nose”. Of course, this kid thought it was funny to answer every question with a negative answer, and the Taz was naturally getting more and more agitated by it. I told him that if it really bothered him to just delete that friend or block the app this kid was using. But I didn’t take it too seriously because this was a common app that kids were using to answer questions about each other on Facebook. 

But then this kid became ultra focused on the friendship that the Taz shared with a girl in his class. He actually found me on Facebook and wrote me a message to inform me that the Taz had a girlfriend, an attempt to get the Taz in trouble. Upon further investigation I found that he had also posted on the Taz’s wall about the relationship. 

Little did this kid know that what he was participating in was called cyber bullying, from beginning to end. And what he was doing was not uncommon from what any other kid might be doing online. 

So what is cyber bullying? It’s any kind of harassment that takes place online. It can be as harsh as posting vicious things in a forum chat room, social network, or through email. Or it can be as light as to purposely make someone feel bad online. And the truth is any kid is capable of being a cyber bully, even those we wouldn’t deem as bullies in person. My kid is capable of it. Your kid is capable of it. All it takes is to not think things through before hitting the “send” or “post” button. 

President Obama tackled the issue of cyber bullying this morning, followed by a live chat at the White House through Facebook that was hosted by Kalpen Modi, associate director for the White House Office of Public Engagement.  The live chat was about 45 minutes long, and covered what the panel knew about cyber bullying, as well as answering questions emailed to them about the issue. And they made a lot of points that are worth taking into account. 

First of all, it’s rare for bullies to feel like they’re bullying. Instead, their frame of mind is that they are justified. This is where we parents should be stepping in with our kids. Teach them the Golden Rule – to treat others as they would like to be treated. The most important point that was brought up repeatedly throughout the chat was the question we should be teaching our kids to ask themselves: “Am I treating this person with dignity?” More importantly, is dignity being used when it’s hard? It’s not hard to treat someone with dignity when it’s easy. But when there is anger or a disagreement in ideas involved, dignity is hard to come by. There’s a thin line between what is right and what is wrong in regards to bullying online. Because something is said through text, it’s hard to distinguish the true meaning behind what could just be teasing, and what can be classified as harassment. This makes it ultra important for us to teach our kids to think before they post or send something online. 

On the dignity point, there are words that are used casually by many of our youth, but also target a group of people in a negative way – words like “retarded”, “fag”, “gay”. If your teen believes that everyone should be treated with dignity and yet they’re using language like this, it’s important that we teach them the hypocritical behavior they’re taking part in. When they use words like “fag” or “gay”, they are part of the group that is degrading. Ask your child, “Do you believe it’s ok to degrade others? Because that is what you are doing when you use those kinds of words in negative ways.” 

Many parents are either unaware of any cyber bullying their child is taking part in, or are simply in denial when it is brought to their attention. “Not my kid,” is a common misconception. And this is to the frustration of many teachers who are very aware of bullying done either in the classroom or online. But how do teachers bring this to a parent’s attention? The first is to set up a time with the parent to discuss the situation in person. Start out this meeting by mentioning something positive about the child first. And then go directly into the situation at hand. Stress your responsibility to the classroom, how it’s your job to ensure the safety of every child, the child in discussion as well as the rest of the class. “I really like your child, and that is why I’d love to work together on this with you to make this a positive experience for everyone in the class.” 

And how do we, as parents, tackle cyber bullying without invading our children’s privacy? How involved we get depends on the child. Do we demand their password or insist they chat with us whenever they’re online? It really depends on your relationship with your child and what is most comfortable with you. While it’s true a child can create more than one Facebook account (or limit your access to them), it’s not a bad idea to be “friends” with your kid on Facebook. In fact, 86% of parents online are “friends” with their child. 

Do I believe this kid that was harassing my son online is a bad kid? No. I also don’t believe that either of my children is incapable of cyber bullying, or that cyber bullies are only bad kids. Any child can be guilty of this kind of behavior. And it is our job as adults to a) model the behavior we wish for them to emulate and b) keep the dialogue of online behavior a constant point of discussion with our kids who use the Internet. 

Have you experienced a form of cyber bullying? Do you have concerns about it, or tips on how to tackle it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Teacher fired over Facebook photo

Ashley Payne, a high school teacher from Georgia, was confused as to why the principal of the school she teaches at asked her into his office for a meeting.  She was even more confused when she was asked if she had a Facebook account.  But things became really clear for the 24 year old when he finally spilled. 

A parent of a student complained because one of her photos on her Facebook showed her holding two glasses of alcohol while on vacation.

Let’s make this clear.  She was not drinking on the job.  She was on vacation.  And like the rest of us would, she was sharing her vacation photos with her Facebook friends, including a picture of her with alcohol.

Even more, Ashley’s profile is private.  So she never would have thought any of her students or their parents would have seen her photos or snooped into her private life.  And now, because of it, the principal was asking Ashley to either resign or be suspended

Ashley had no choice but to resign.

This is just one more example of how anything on the web has become public knowledge.  In fact, if you want to be alarmed, take a gander at Spokeo.com, a website that has gathered information from various places on the web about none other than YOU.  Don’t believe me?  Type in your name on the search engine and see what comes up about you.  And then sit back and take in the fact that they know your address, your age, your salary…even your religion.  Same thing with your Facebook page or the like.  All someone has to do is copy your photo and put it somewhere else on the web and it becomes public knowledge – including companies that are BUYING your information.  Don’t even get me started on the so-called privacy of Facebook.  Basically, there is none. 

The internet has guaranteed that no one has a right to control their own privacy.

And that’s what killed Ashley’s job. First of all, it’s imperative that anyone who is posting pictures or comments know that they are posting them for the world to see.  So it makes it all the more important to not post anything that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see, let alone your boss. 

The photo that killed Ashley Payne's job

But something is seriously wrong when a teacher is forced to quit her job because of a photo of herself having fun on vacation.  And let’s face it, while it would be easy to believe that teachers live in their classrooms and drink nothing but water, that’s not reality.  Teachers also go on vacation.  They also enjoy a glass of wine.  They are just as G rated as the rest of us in their private lives – meaning that they aren’t, just like the rest of us.

They are entitled to a life.

But then again, some parents might disagree.  It eventually came out that the phonecall reporting Ashley’s photo was actually an anonymous tip – meaning that it may have been a parent, and it may not have been.  But someone was so offended by the fact that a teacher at the school had posted a picture of herself on the web of her drinking during her social time, resulting in the eventual loss of her job.  And this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of someone getting in trouble with their job over Facebook photos.  In fact, many jobs will search their applicants on Facebook to see the person that is interviewing, and what they are like when they aren’t in front of them in a suit and tie.

Should teachers, and other professionals, be judged at work for their personal profile pages on Facebook?  Do you feel that teachers have an even bigger job of making sure their lives away from the school are politically correct since they work with children and could be deemed role models?

When words are weapons

Sticks and stones might break my bones, but words will never hurt me. The childhood rhyme was one taught to us so that we wouldn’t take too literally what another kid was saying to us. And while we recited it, I think many of us can agree –

It’s a lie.

Words hurt, sometimes even more than sticks and stones ever could. While the wounds from a thrown rock will heal with time, some words penetrate so deeply they tend to leave lasting damage that has the power to strengthen that hurt over time. That is why some of us have eating disorders, why we choose the wrong partner to fall in love with, why we try to seek approval from our parents, or why we watch how we parent our own children so that we aren’t like our mothers or fathers.  Words can be weapons.

And the internet only makes this truer.

It is in this day and age when a big portion of our communication is done online. It’s convenient and instant, and it gets the word across in a much broader way than the old-fashioned method of calling people up on the phone and setting up a meeting time. It’s a great way to seek instant attention, to pretend like we have an audience hanging on our every word. And for those brief moments, there really is an audience. And that is probably what was going on in the mind of one Nevada 12 year old who created a group called “Attack a Teacher Day”, inviting more than 100 students to partake at certain time on a certain day, inspiring 5 other students to list the teachers they would like to attack with words like “die” in front of the specific teacher’s name.

Of course, it is plausible “Attack a Teacher Day” had just as much authenticity as other events that have been spread more worldwide thanks to social networking, events like “Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day” or “Talk like a Pirate Day”. Could it be that these girls created an event to pretend they would attack a teacher just for the amusement of themselves, and not to actually attack a teacher? Sure. But is it even more plausible that a group like this could incite attacks against this teacher, encouraging any student reading it to actually follow through and harm their teacher? I believe so – especially after reading this story of a third grader in Georgia who brought a knife to school, ultimately unfolding into a plot that involved several students who played roles in harming their teacher – complete with handcuffs, electric tape, a paper weight, and more.

“It seems the plan was hatched in retaliation after one of the students was scolded by the teacher for standing on a chair. Authorities were amazed at the sophistication of the plan, which included a division of roles. One of the students was to cover the windows so no one could see into the room. Another was assigned to clean up after the attack.” Saul Relative, AP

All this was done without the internet. So what of the danger in a more widespread plan of attack using the convenience of social networking and the permanency of words placed on the web?

Words have power. They have power when face to face, they have power over the phone, they have power when written in a letter, and they have power when scribed online for anyone to see. Words have the power to bring someone up, and they have power to tear someone down. They also have the power to create a mob mentality, blurring the lines between wrong and right, resulting in something like attacking – even killing – a teacher simply because they are disliked. Who knows what would have happened if authorities hadn’t stepped in….

Cyber bullying and permanent negativity on the internet does not just happen to kids across the state, or in another part of the country. It happens right here, in our own homes, on the computers of our teens. This is why I am Facebook friends with my children, why I consistently check in with them in regards to what they are doing online, and keep an eye on what they are writing. It’s not nosiness. It’s keeping them safe, and ensuring they learn how to use the internet properly. There have been times I’ve had to have conversations regarding things I’m not ok with. And the topic of how permanent words are on the internet has been a regular discussion in our household ever since either of them was allowed on the computer.

It should be a regular topic of discussion in your house too.

Words written with a negative or sarcastic tone could be read as something completely different – even dangerous. And when one writes out that they HATE someone or something, that they wish someone would DIE, or creates a group for fun that dictates harm or hate towards someone else, not only will it further that hate, it could create a potentially dangerous situation – even enticing a mob to react. And all things involved, those words can no longer be seen as harmless. When words are put together to form a HATE group stating the date and time when attacks should take place, those words are weapons.

Foursquare: Fun? Or dangerous?

Last month you may have noticed that there was a little bit of a frenzy going on around town. It was April 16th, and it was unofficially dubbed Foursquare Day (4/16, four squared, get it?). Businesses opened their doors for celebrating, and offered killer deals to those who “checked in” at their business through Foursquare, the latest trend in online networking.

Foursquare is so new that many people have no idea what it is. Basically it’s a networking site that allows you to show other people where you have gone during the day. A person “checks in” at each locale they have visited. If they have visited a place more often than anyone else, they become the “mayor” of that business or area and earn a badge. There are badges for all sorts of different levels completed on Foursquare, encouraging people to continue checking in so that they can be awarded more and more badges. You can imagine that having Foursquare is especially convenient on a smartphone as you can check in immediately anywhere you are at. It will even map it for you, and map different check-in points close to you. This is good news for businesses that want to get their name out there, and convenient for someone looking for something to do around town and want to know what’s in the area.

But this is bad news for safety, and it seems to be a potential for stalkers and other predators to be able to choose their victims that much easier. This not only raises concern for adults, this is especially alarming for children who have smart phones and are letting the world, and even just those they have friended (which, you know, aren’t always people they know in real life), know where they are. Sure, this is a convenient way for anyone to let their friends know where they are in case their friends are in the area. But they are also letting strangers know where they are, or where they frequent.

And beyond safety, this is a great way to annoy your friends. On 4/16, I checked in at 5 places. And my friends finally questioned why I was broadcasting the fact that I was getting gas. In my daughter’s words (verbatim from Facebook): “y do u need to tell everyone where u r??? grown ups are weird. they just wanna b stalked.”

What is your take on Foursquare?

Live birth via the internet

Lynsee at MomsLikeMe will be broadcasting her birth this month, live via the internet.  Read the article here…..  A teacher from Minnesota, Lynsee has been blogging her pregnancy to the tiniest detail.  “We wanted to share this experience,” Lynsee said about the decision she made with her husband Anders.  “If I were in a classroom, I’d be teaching about development. It was a way for me to teach… A way for me to use myself as a textbook.”

And sure, this is a great chance for teaching about childbirth.  But wow!  I’m not so sure that I’d want something so personal broadcast to the world!  Yeah, I know.  The act of birth is miraculous, and definitely a joyous occasion.  And to the parents to be (once you get past the woman threatening her husband’s life for even touching her), it’s amazingly beautiful.  But beautiful to the rest of the world?  Hardly.  I think that the world will be more grossed out than amazed getting up close and personal with Lynsee while the miracle of life emerges.  It sounds like the cameramen are instructed to be discrete in how much they show, thank goodness!  But still, a personal experience like that shared with the world? 

The mom-to-be will also be available for live chat while she is in labor at the hospital.  This must be her first birth.  Can you imagine holding a computerized conversation while feeling like the thing inside of you is trying to rip itself out of you?  If the father of my children had even attempted to hold a computer near me to tell everyone what I was going through, I would shove that think up his….. Well, you get the point.

What do you think about this?

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